YOU CANNOT BE CALLED GYPSY

The following is an actual complaint that I made with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in 2012. The complaint was for racism and discrimination.

LEGAL STATEMENT OF FACT

My name is James Alan George. I am an American Romani. My legal residence is Clyde, Texas 79510. I was employed as a Delivery Driver from March 21, 2011 to September 21, 2012 for Lowes Home Improvement Store #2719 1634 Musgrave Blvd., Abilene, Texas 79601.

1. Sometime around the first of August, 2012 I was in the Lowes I was employed at on my day off. As I entered the store I noticed the receiving manager Brian Smith speaking with an employee I had never seen in the store before by the appliance department. I assumed that the person that Mr. Smith was speaking with was our new Human Resources Manager Ben White. I approached, held out my hand and introduced myself;

        ME: Hi, My name is Jim, I am one of the Delivery Drivers, most   people call me Gypsy.

        Ben White: I’ll call you Jim, Gypsy is a racist term.

        ME: But I am a Gypsy, that’s how I got the nickname, it’s who    and what I am.

        Ben White: Oh, well we’ll have to see about that but I’ll still call   you Jim.

Mr. White then turned and walked away. Mr. Smith quipped that it was his favorite awkward moment of the year.

2. The next time I was scheduled to work Mr. White approached me as I finished clocking in and said, “I have been telling everyone not to call you Gypsy.” I asked him why he was doing that. He responded with, “because it is a racist term.” The following conversation then took place.

        ME: Ben, no it isn’t, my people refer to themselves as Gypsy, I   have carried that nickname since I was in high school.

        Ben White: It is a derogatory term.

        ME: No it isn’t, my people have called themselves that since the beginning of time. I do not mind being called Gypsy, it is who I     am.

        Ben White: I mind and I am letting people know that they should not call you that.

3. A couple of days later Mr. White approached me as I was talking with cashier Samantha Harris, and the following conversation took place;

        Ben White: How’s it going Mr. Romani?

        ME: What?”

        Ben White: How’s it going Mr. Romani?

        ME: That’s not my name.

        Ben White: Do you know how the Romani got the slang term of   their name?

        ME: What slang term?

        Ben White: You probably know. Your people don’t like that term.

        ME: Ben you know nothing about my people. They call       themselves Gypsy, they are proud to be called Gypsy.

        Ben White: No they don’t like it.

        ME: I have to go to work.

I then left and went back to the receiving area. Later that day he called me Mr. Romani twice more. Once in front of Driver Manager Larry Kimbrough and once in front of employees Mario Nabarrette and Charlie Cruz.

4. The next day Mr. White walked into the employee break room where I and other employees were discussing the Colorado shootings and James Holmes. Mr. White blurted out, “We are Texas, we execute the retarded.” He laughed at his joke but when no one else did he left.

5. Approximately one week later head cashier Nichole Tumey Strait received a call from a customer that I had been trying to contact about a delivery. Mrs. Strait paged me by saying; “Gypsy, you have a call holding on 6100. Gypsy please pick up 6100.” Mr. White came out of his office and informed Mrs. Strait that she was not to page me by the name Gypsy again. He informed her that it was racist and she could not use that term over the PA because it would offend others. The next day he told Mrs. Strait that another employee came to him offended that she had paged me by the name Gypsy. In the 16 months prior to Mr. White coming to the store no one had ever reported being offended by my nickname. During this same conversation Mr. White referred to Mrs. Strait as a “Ginger” and told her she had no soul.

6. Every Tuesday there is a Managers meeting at the store. This meeting is an opportunity for the Store Manager, the Assistant Store Manager, the Zone Managers and the Department Managers to get together discuss issues, changes and operations within the store.

I came back from my deliveries one Tuesday and was approached by several Department Managers who informed me that Human Resource Manager Ben White had just had a 2 hour discussion in the Managers meeting as to why no one in the store should call me Gypsy. Some of the managers that told me about the meeting were Daniel Whitworth, Phillip Beard, Phil Stone, Anne Taylor, Kevin Silvestri and Ed McMahan.

Mr. McMahan said that Mr. White would not come right out and say the word Gypsy. Mr. McMahan asked Mr. White who he was referring to and Mr. White kept telling Mr. McMahan that he could not say the word because it is racist. Mr. McMahan said, “Are you talking about Gypsy?” Mr. White said, “You can’t say that.” Mr. McMahan said, “Why? It’s his name. It’s what we all call him.” Mr. White said, “You can’t call him that.”

7. The day after the Managers meeting I walked into the employees break room where I discovered Mr. White talking to several employees. One of the employees said, “speak of the devil.” I asked, “What’s going on?” Employee Megan Herweck said, “Ben was just telling us why we shouldn’t call you Gypsy.” The following conversation took place;

        Ben White: The Romani do not like to be called Gypsy.

        ME: I do not know where you got that.

        Ben White: I was in the Army and it is a racist term.

        ME: In the Army it is a racist term?

        Ben White: Yes and you cannot use that name.

        ME: Ben, do you understand that my people do not mind being   called Gypsy, they are proud of the name.

        Ben White: No they not.

        ME: Ben, I have been called Gypsy since I was 16. I have used   the name publicly, privately and professionally. I have used the        name for 40 years and that is what people know me by and will        continue to call me.

        Megan Herweck: Face it Ben, this is an argument you can’t win.

        ME: Ben, I honestly do not know why you won’t let this go but    Gypsy is who I am.

        Ben White: Lowes has a policy against nicknames.

        ME: Really? You mean employees cannot call people by their      nicknames?

        Ben White: That’s right.

        ME: Ben, there are only a couple of terms that you could use on me concerning my race that would offend me and Gypsy is not        one of them.

        Ben White: It is the same as when Rappers use the N word to     describe themselves.

        ME: No it isn’t. Rappers are not the N Word. I AM the G word.

        Megan Herweck: Ben, It’s not the same.

At this point Mr. White exited the break room. One of the employees, Carra Doyle, asked me what words would offend me. I told her the term Gadjo which is Romani for anyone who is not Gypsy. I explained that for a Gypsy to refer to someone that is not Gypsy as a Gadjo is not an insult but to use that term on someone that is a Gypsy is a tremendous insult. I also explained most Romani do not like the term Gypo or Gyppy but the word Gypsy is not derogatory. I said, “The point is Ben is trying to make something bad out of something that isn’t.”

I had been trying to figure out where Mr. White was getting his info. That evening when I returned home from work I did a Google search using some of the statements that Mr. White had made. I discovered that most of his info was gleaned from message boards like straight talk.com and websites such as wikipedia.org.

8. Upon hearing what had happened in the break room employee Karen Cockrell, a part time employee, told my wife, whom Ms. Cockrell works with at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, that another employee, Ebony Nichole McGhee, might be using a nickname and not her real name. Not liking rumors I asked Miss McGhee if her real name was Ebony. She told me that it was. She also told me that she had heard the rumor and she thought it was funny. She said that she knew what Ben White had been saying about me and she thought it was ridicules.

A couple of days later Miss McGhee told me that Mr. White had called her to his office and asked her if I had asked her if Ebony was her real name. She told him that I had and that she had not minded me asking. She told him that people ask her that all the time. She then told me that Mr. White then said, “Ebony is another word for black but you are African-American.”  Miss McGhee got offended and told him, “I was not born in Africa, I was born in America, I am Black.”

9. On September 7, 2012 receiving employee Charlie Cruz asked me if I would draw a cartoon of a Dallas Cowboy molesting a Seattle Seahawk. I asked him why. He said that a lot of the guys had been talking and they wanted to tease Dave Reynolds, who is a Seattle Seahawks fan about the upcoming Cowboys / Seahawks game on September 16. Knowing that Dave Reynolds is a good sport with a sense of humor and also knowing that he would not be offended but would find it funny I agreed to do the drawing.

I brought the drawing, concealed, to work on Monday morning, September 10, 2012 and handed it over to Charlie Cruz who had asked for it. Mr. Cruz found it extremely funny and showed it to the other guys who had talked about teasing Dave Reynolds with a drawing. Several of the employees took the drawing and made copies of it as they too found it amusing. Among the employees who made copies were Charlie Cruz, Jo-Al (last name unknown) and Ed McMahan. I had not made a copy of the drawing for myself so I did, folded it and placed it in my pocket.

Approximately 30 minutes later I was walking to the front of the store and was stopped by Install sales associate Jocelyn (last name unknown). She was laughing and said that Ed McMahan had just showed her the drawing and she found it very funny. As I approached the customer service desk I saw Ed McMahan showing the drawing to one of the cashiers. Store Manager Robert Gonzales was on the far side of the desk and asked what Mr. McMahan had. I said, “Robert, I don’t think you want to see it.” Mr. Gonzales said, “Yes I do, I’d like to see it.” Ed McMahan, believing that Mr. Gonzales, who is a Dallas Cowboys fan, would find the humor in it showed the print to him. Mr. Gonzales looked at the photo copy of the cartoon and said, “Good Drawing.”

Later Charlie Cruz showed me an envelope that had Dave Reynolds name on it. He told me that he was going to put it under Dave Reynolds door to his office. He said the cartoon was inside.

I left and made my deliveries. I returned around four in the afternoon and saw Dave Reynolds. When he saw me he started laughing. He was leaning on the customer service desk and said, “Hey Crash!” (his nickname for me) He then flipped me the finger. I laughed and said, “Poor Seahawks.” Mr. Reynolds laughed and said, “We’ll see who’s riding who on Sunday.”

At this point I thought nothing else about the drawing that a friend had asked me to make to tease another friend.

10. Later in the day on September 7, 2012 my Supervisor, Driver Manager Ed McMahan came to me and said that Ben White had called him to his office. He said that Mr. White had him write a statement about the drawing I had made. Mr. McMahan took full responsibility for the drawing claiming on his statement that he had asked me to draw it. The way this was perceived by Mr. McMahan was that he had been in the group that had conceived the joke. Even though Charlie Cruz asked me to draw the cartoon it was Mr. McMahan’s idea. Mr. McMahan said that Ben White wanted to see me.

When I arrived at Mr. White’s office he asked me to fill out a statement concerning the drawing. The following is what I wrote:

“An employee asked me to draw a cartoon of a Dallas Cowboy and Seahawk. It was to poke fun at a fellow employee and friend who is a Seahawk fan. I gave it to the requesting party (who is also a friend). What became of it after that was not my business. To my knowledge no one involved was offended by the drawing.”

After I handed Mr. White my statement I turned to leave, stopped and came back. I said, “Ben, if you are going to write Ed up for showing that cartoon to people you should write me up too. It’s only right.” Mr. White’s response was, “Well, yeah, um, we’ll see.” I said, “Right is right Ben.” I then left and went back to work.

Upon hearing that an issue was being made out of the cartoon, Charlie Cruz went up to Ben White’s office and demanded to fill out a statement. Mr. Cruz told Mr. White that if Mr. McMahan and myself were going to be wrote up that he should be wrote up too. He told Mr. White that he had asked me to make the drawing and that he had been the one to make the copies.

11. On September 11, 2012 Cashier Carra Doyle, told me that Ben White had said to her that there was another Romani in the store and that they were offended by the term Gypsy and that is why he has been making sure no one calls me Gypsy. I said, “That’s bull! I have worked in this store for 18 months and if there was another Romani here I would know.” Miss Doyle said, “He is just trying to justify.” I said, “It’s strange, no one had a problem with my name until Ben came here.” Miss Doyle said, “I’ll keep calling you Gypsy and so will everyone else.”

I  decided that I would try to figure out who Ben White was referring to and ask that person if they had Romani blood. There were only two people in the store that had features that could be considered “Romani” and I decided that at my next opportunity I would speak with them.

Later that day I saw one of the people I thought Mr. White was referring to, cashier Ashley (last name unknown), who was a new hire. I asked her what her heritage was and if she had any Romani blood. She told me no that her family was from Czechoslovakia. I said, “Ah, eastern Europe, that explains your features. My family is from Germany.” I then told her the reason why I had asked. She said that she didn’t understand why “Ben” was bothered by my name.

12. On September 13, 2012 Ed McMahan came to me and said that Ben White wanted to see me in his office. He said that Mr. White had him fill out another statement. Mr. McMahan said that his second statement wasn’t any different than his first statement.

When I arrived at Mr. Whites office I asked what he wanted. He handed me a blank statement and said, “I need you to write down a description of what you drew.” I handed him back the form and said, “Ben, I have wrote everything about this I am going to write. I told you everything in the statement I wrote the other day. I do not understand why you are making such a big deal out of this. You are new here and do not understand our sense of humor. We joke with one another all the time. We are not just co-workers, we are friends. The person that the cartoon was aimed at is not offended so none of us understand why you are keeping on this.” Mr. White said, “So you are not going to write anything else?” I said, “No, I told you I have already told you everything and if you are wanting me to throw someone under the bus I am not going to do that either. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go back to work.” Mr. White then gave me permission to leave.

13. On September 16, 2012 the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Seattle Seahawks. Fair is fair so I drew a cartoon of a Seattle Seahawk hammering a football into a Dallas Cowboy’s derrière. This cartoon was intended for Dave Reynolds who I had drew the cartoon to tease the week before.

14. On September 17, 2012 I took the original cartoon to work with me but left it in the saddle bag of my motorcycle. Considering the overreaction to the cartoon the week before I figured it would be a good idea just to let Dave Reynolds know where it was so he could retrieve it at his leisure. I made a copy of the cartoon, folded it up and put it into my pocket so I could show Mr. Reynolds what I had drawn without bringing the original into the store.

When I got back to the receiving department Mr. Reynolds was waiting there for me to give me a hard time about the Seahawks Win over the Cowboys. Employees Brian Smith, Kim Delgado, Mario Nabarrette, Charlie Cruz and Ed McMahan were also there. I gave Mr. Reynolds the photo copy and said, “Fair is fair Dave so I made this drawing for you. The original is in my right saddle bag.” Mr. Reynolds said, “Probably a good idea to leave it there.” He then showed everyone present the photo copy and all had a good laugh over it.

15. Later in the day on September 17, 2012 I was returning to the store after finishing my days deliveries. I cut through the Garden Center when I reentered the store and encountered cashier Trina Cook. Ms. Cook was the other employee that I felt had features that could be mistaken for Romani. I asked Ms. Cook if she minded if I asked her what her heritage was. She said, “Latino and Italian.” She then asked me why I had wanted to know. I explained to her what Mr. White had said to cashier Carra Doyle about how there was another Romani in the store that was offended by the term “Gypsy”. The following conversation between Ms. Cook and I then took place:

        Ms. Cook: That explains it!

        ME: What are you talking about?

        Ms. Cook: A few days ago Ben came to me and said, “I have       taken care of the racist problem. If you have anymore problems    with that just come to me.”

        ME: Where did he come up with that one?

        Ms. Cook: I have no idea.

        ME: He racially profiled you and then made this scenario in his    head that he was protecting you.

        Ms. Cook: From what? I’m Latino and Italian!

        ME: I know that but he don’t. He looked at you, assumed you     were Romani and got it into his head he was protecting you from racism somehow.

        Ms. Cook: But he’s the racist!

        ME: I know that and you know that but he doesn’t know that.

Ms. Cook said that she was going to have a talk with Ben White   next time she saw him and set him straight. She said that she felt he was being ridicules.

Later I found out that after Mr. White had made his remark to Ms. Cook that Ms. Cook went to her Department Manager Phillip Beard and said (in reference to the remark), “What the F*** was that all about?” Also around this same time period Mr. White referred to Trina Cook as “Fat” in a conversation with receiving clerk Kim Delgado. Ms. Delgado reprimanded him saying, “You can’t do that.” Mr. White said, “But I’m fat!” Ms. Delgado said, “I don’t care, you can’t say that.”

16. I came into work on September 18, 2012 not feeling well. I told my Supervisor Ed McMahan that I was not feeling well and asked him if I could take off early that day after I finished my deliveries. He said that I could but just be sure that I let a Manager on Duty or Robert Gonzales know before I left as he would not be there.

When I got back to the store I found Zone Managers Steve Allen, Shawn Sanders and Tom Southard in a meeting with store Manager Robert Gonzales and HR Manager Ben White in the training room. I knocked on the door and asked to enter. Mr. Gonzales motioned me in. I told him that I was not feeling well and that I had asked Ed McMahan if I could go home and he had said yes. Mr. Gonzales asked what was wrong and I explained that my stomach was in a knot. Mr. Gonzales joked that maybe I had the same thing as Steve Allen. Mr. Allen said that he had an upset stomach all day long. I said, “Mine just feels knotted up and it is not making me feel real well.” Mr. Gonzales said, “Go on home and I hope you get to feeling better.” I said, “I have the next two days off and I am going to take it easy.” I then left the store and went home.

17. On September 21, 2012 I clocked in just as I always did and went back to receiving to meet with my Supervisor Ed McMahan and see what deliveries he had scheduled for me that day. Acting Assistant Store Manager Shawn Sanders came back to receiving and asked if he could talk to me. I said, “Sure, what’s up?” He said that I was wanted in the front office. I told him OK and headed that direction. He walked beside me but never said anything. He had a slight smirk which led me to believe that I was probably going to finally get wrote up for the drawing. I thought to myself; Finally, now we can move on.

When I got to the Store Managers office Robert Gonzales invited me to come in and have a seat. HR Manager Ben White was sitting at the back of the office. Mr. Gonzales smiled and asked how I was and I indicated that I was fine. He then flipped over a piece of paper on his desk and said, “We are here today to talk about your termination.” The following conversation then took place:

        ME: What? Why?

        Robert Gonzales:  Distribution of Offensive Material.

        ME: I didn’t distribute anything.

        Robert Gonzales: You brought that drawing into the store.

        ME: And I gave it only to the person that asked me to draw it     for him.

        Robert Gonzales: But you brought that drawing into my store     and handed out copies.

        ME: No I didn’t hand out copies.

        Robert Gonzales: You brought it into my store…

        ME: Yes, to give it to the guy that asked me to draw it for him. I didn’t distribute anything.

        Robert Gonzales: I have talked to my Managers and they agree   with this decision.

        ME: You talked to 2 managers that do not like me to make your decision? That’s fair.

(Shawn Sanders does not like me because I lodged several verbal complaints against him for his approach and the way he would talk to me when giving me an assignment. Tom Southard does not like me because I lodged a written complaint against him for lying to a customer and telling her that I did not do my job and that was the reason she was not getting her delivery. The truth was it had been he that had bumped her delivery for an unscheduled delivery)

        Robert Gonzales: There is a place there (indicating the       termination form) where you can write a comment.

        ME: So that’s it? I don’t get a write up just a termination? What about the other people involved? Are they getting terminated?

        Robert Gonzales: I won’t have that type of behavior in my store.

        ME: What behavior? It was a drawing I did for a guy that I gave to the guy that asked me for it. I did not distribute anything, I did nothing wrong. You two are new here, do you have any idea   how much of myself I have given to this company? How hard I        have worked? And now you just kick me to the curb, over a        drawing!?

        Robert Gonzales: When you finish your comment sign at the       bottom.

        I wrote my statement and then said;

        ME: You know, it’s funny, a while back I filed a written       complaint against one of your managers that did something a    lot worse than this and nothing was ever done to him.

        Robert Gonzales: We are not talking about the past we are         talking about the future and I will not have things like this in         my store. Do you have anything in your locker?

        ME: I have my knap sack in back and some stuff in my locker.

        Robert Gonzales: Ben will accompany you to get your stuff.

I then left his office with Ben White escorting me. In the store it is known as the “Walk of Shame.” When I reached receiving I recovered my knap sack and said to the employees there; “I’ll see you all again someday, maybe.” As I walked to the employees break room at the front of the store I said, “Ben, you know this is not right.” Mr. White said, “The decision wasn’t mine.” Shawn Sanders fell in to step on the other side of me smirking.

As I cleared out my locker I said again, “This isn’t right. A write up maybe but termination over something like this? I’m a good employee and a hard worker. This isn’t right!” Mr. White nor Mr. Sanders said anything. After I exited the store I called my wife at her place of employment to come pick me up. As I waited for her out in front of the store Shawn Sanders stood right inside the door. I figure that this was to keep me from reentering the store, which I had no intention of doing at that time.

As I was waiting I realized that Ben White had not given me a copy of my termination so I called the store and asked him to run a copy and bring it out. A few minutes later Mr. White came out of the store and informed me that he had called Sonia (the district HR Manager) and she had said that the Termination form was Lowes property and I could not have a copy.

After my wife picked me up and I took her back to her job  I headed down to the Texas Workforce Office. I told the lady at the front desk what had happened. She agreed with me that Ben Whites actions appeared to be racist. She gave me some phone numbers to call and suggested that I contact the Texas Department of Labor and the EEOC. She also said that I had a right to the form I had signed. She said that the company may elect not to give it to me but that I had a right to it.

When I left the Texas Workforce Office I called Ben White and told him what the lady had told me about my right to a copy of the form. I told Mr. White that I wanted a copy of the form. My signature was on it and I had a right to a copy of the form. Mr. White said he would talk to Texas Workforce. He phoned me a few minutes later and said he had talked to Texas Workforce and that they had told him that he didn’t have to give me a copy of the form and he wasn’t going to give me one. I said, “Then I guess you will have to talk to my attorney about that.” (I had at this point decided that I might need legal representation) Mr. White said, “Have a good day Jim.” Then hung up.

As I was driving home Ed McMahan phoned me and asked me to come to his home, he said he needed to talk to me. I told him I would meet him there. When Mr. McMahan arrived at his home he was crying. He kept apologizing over and over to me saying that he was sorry he had cost me my job. Mr. McMahan knows I have large medical bills from a motorcycle accident last year and that I needed my job. I kept assuring Mr. McMahan that it wasn’t his fault. I told him there was something deeper going on here. Mr. McMahan told me that he had gone to Robert Gonzales office after they walked me out of the store and asked him why I had been fired. Mr. McMahan said that Mr. Gonzales told him the same thing he had told me; Distribution of Offensive Material. Mr. McMahan told Mr. Gonzales that I did not distribute the drawing. He said that I only gave it to the person that asked for it. Mr. Gonzales said that he didn’t care, that Lowes had fed and clothed his family for 30 years and he wasn’t giving that up for anyone. Mr. McMahan said that Mr. Gonzales also said that he would go on from here and not think about it again and that he (Ed McMahan) should do the same. Mr. McMahan said, “How can I go on and pretend this didn’t happen? Gypsy is my friend, how am I suppose to face him?” Mr. Gonzales indicated that it wasn’t his problem and told Mr. McMahan he should forget about it. Mr. McMahan asked what was going to happen to him. Mr. Gonzales said, “We are having this conversation.” Mr. McMahan said, “I am not being wrote up or terminated?” Mr. Gonzales said, “We are having this conversation.” Mr. McMahan said, “But you terminated him for nothing and you are not doing anything to me.” Mr. Gonzales said, “We are having this conversation and when you leave this office there will be no more talk of this.”

Mr. McMahan also told me that word had spread through the store pretty quick and that most of the employees were upset over what they had done to me. He also told me that during a training session he had been present at Ben White had made a comment about “African Babies”. Mr. McMahan had been at the meeting but said he had not caught all that had been said. Mr. McMahan also said that during a Voice Team Meeting on September 20, 2012 that Mr. White had made some very off colored sexually related remarks about a penis

Mr. McMahan apologized to me again and I once more reassured him that it was not his fault that this had happened.

18. On September 22, 2012 I returned a Lowes Vest I had taken home to launder to the Lowes store I had been employed at. I gave it to Nichole Tumey Strait and asked her to give it to Ben White. I then asked her to recover a pair of gloves, two water bottles and an ice pack I had left in the employees break room. I purchased some weed eater line then I stopped and talked to Nichole Tumey Strait, Karen Cockrell and Cindy (last name unknown). They expressed their dismay and sympathy over my termination. I told them that I was now a customer and I had nothing to be ashamed of. I said, “I have done nothing wrong and I will not hide nor disappear.” Karen said, “Good for you.”

Since my termination I have been in Lowes #2719 to pick up supplies and paint. I have handed out to employees who are friends my card so that they may stay in touch with me. Ben White has witnessed me giving my card to some people and has called these people to his office demanding to know what is on the card I handed them. Among these people are Appliance Specialist Mellissa Tate and Head Cashier Nichole Tumey Strait.

IN CONCLUSION:

I feel like, based on the facts I have given, that I have been the victim of racism and discrimination. Until Ben White came to Lowes #2719 no one had a problem with my heritage nor my nickname. I feel like he has been on a campaign since the moment I first met him to not only prove that my name and the heritage attached to it are a bad thing but that he must also prove he is right no matter the cost to others. I believe that my termination is a direct result of Mr. White wanting to remove me from the equation so that he no longer had to prove he was right and I was wrong. The situation he used to instigate my termination could have been kept in house yet he escalated it to corporate to get the end result he desired. I find his remarks and actions to be racist and discriminatory. The sad thing is I do not think he realizes it.

As for Robert Gonzales, by his own admission he found the drawing to be “Good”. He also requested to see the drawing even after I warned him against it. Yet I am terminated on a false accusation of distribution. Why were no other employees disciplined or called to task on their usage of Lowes Company equipment to copy the drawing and pass it around? I had done the drawing on my own time at home and given the drawing to a single person who had requested it, not a group of people. I truly do not want to see anyone in trouble over such a petty thing. In my opinion there should have been no more than a verbal warning for all, myself included. Mr. Gonzales action was discriminatory and overkill to say the least and the true reason why still remains a mystery to me. However, Mr. Gonzales knew of Mr. Whites campaign against me and in many ways condoned his actions by not putting a stop to them. I believe he used the described situation as an excuse to get rid of me, the object of Ben Whites obsession. 

In my opinion Mr. Gonzales nor Mr. White have been at Lowes #2719 long enough to know the employees nor to learn what a close knit group they are. Both are recent hires at the store. Both have talked about how they want us to be one big happy family yet through their actions they are driving wedges between people they claim they wish to unite through discriminatory and racist acts and remarks.

I truly do not know why I was singled out for this type of treatment from these two individuals after being a good and reliable employee for 18 months but the mental, emotional and financial stress I and my wife have suffered over their actions is significantly damaging.

James A. George                         Monday, September 25, 2012

POST NOTE:

The EEOC found against me and in favor of Lowe’s stating; “There is no discrimination as “Gypsies” are not a race, they are a culture.

Thirty days after I was terminated HR Manager Ben White was terminated for sexual harassment of a cashier.

I no longer live in Texas and now call Kansas home.

I find it difficult to shop at Lowes.

OFF ON A NEW ADVENTURE

Yesterday Morning I finished reading “The Borrowers”. I was saddened that the adventures of the Clock Family ended where it did. Yet I was heartened by the fact that there are still 4 more books in the series for me to continue the adventure with these little people.
Today I made my way out the back door, up the drainage gutter, across the small wooden bridge and up the brick path towards the pool. Skirting the pool on the stone paver’s I finally arrived at the patio and nestled into my favorite chair. With coffee in one hand and book in the other I sat down and breathed in the cool, fresh morning air.
Taking a sip of my coffee I set the cup on the table. As the sounds of the birds, small mammals and insects that live in the thicket that surround my patio sang their sweet music into my ears I opened my book; “The Wind In The Willows” By Kenneth Graham. I read the wonderful introduction by Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne which included a copy of a letter by President Theodore Roosevelt praising the book. I then turned to Chapter One to begin a grand adventure with Mole, River Rat, Badger and of course that grand adventure and irresponsible flighty Mr. Toad.
Ah what adventures await me over the next two weeks as I sip my morning brew and flip the pages. With wonderful pen and ink and watercolor illustrations by Alice In Wonderland illustrator Arthur Rackham I am sure to have a grand time with the grand denizens of the river.
This book, more so than any other I have ever read, so fully encompasses the spirit and the life of the Gypsy. Kenneth Graham may have not been Romani but the Banker turned story teller had the heart and soul of one. As Water Rat so adeptly put it, “It’s my world and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing.”

-The GYPSY-
August 20, 2020
Topeka, Kansas

ENOUGH

I don’t know what did it. I don’t know if it was the Orange Man’s daily wiping of his butt with our Constitution that did it. Maybe it was his attacks on our election process or was it all the illegal acts he has done while in office. Was it the Orange Man’s vile , racist and un-Christian divisive rhetoric that made me turn off the morning news? I really don’t know what did it but what I do know is that one day I decided that I would not fill up my mornings with Orange Man TV any longer; I’m done. Oh I will probably continue to watch Comedy Centrals Daily Show and I will watch the Sunday morning news programs just to stay caught up. But daily viewing of the individual that wants to rip our country, environment and constitution to shreds has ended.
I now spend my mornings sitting on my patio by the pool surrounded by trees sipping my morning coffee and revisiting books that I have loved in my life. I am currently reading “The Borrowers” and next will be “Wind In The Willows”. “Once and Future King” is on that list as well as “The Book of Merlin” and “Charlotte’s Web”. There is a very long list of my favorite novels and I will spend at least an hour a day (if not more), falling into those worlds and words between the pages.
The other morning as I finished a chapter of “The Borrowers” and placed the book on the patio table a female Thrush landed on the three lamp post and greeted me with a shrill weeee-eeee.
“Well Good Morning Mrs. Thrush” I said tipping my head towards her. “Weeee?” she asked. “Why I am just sitting here reading my book and drinking my coffee”. She cocked her head and said “Weeee -eeee.” I laughed. “I quite a agree, it is a good morning for finding grubs.” She jumped over to another lamp and said, “Weeee.” I shook my head, “No I haven’t seen your husband but maybe he went back into the thicket.” She looked towards the thicket and bobbing her head she bid me a good day with a weeee-eeee that preceded her flight away. “You have a good day also Mrs. Thrush” I said waving good bye.
Within a few minutes the Crickets and Cicadas were asking if Mrs. Thrush was gone and if it was safe for them to sing again. I assured them it was. “Mrs. Thrush is looking for Grubs and her wayward husband this morning, I don’t think you need to worry about being eaten.” I finished my coffee and headed inside to begin my daily duties as an adult and responsible business owner.
I really don’t know what did it but what I do know is that one day I decided that I would not fill up my mornings with Orange Man TV any longer. I will fill my mornings with coffee, books and the creatures that live in the thicket around my patio. I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel will be up to tomorrow morning.
-The GYPSY-
Topeka, Kansas
14 August 2020

EIGHTY FIVE YEARS YOUNG

Today would have been Shirley Elizabeth Hummel’s 85th Birthday. She was my Mother. She was also many other things in her life. But first and foremost she was my Mother and I failed her.

It is a sad and recurring twist of fate that too many of us do not realize of understand how important our parents were and are to us until it is too late. I am one of those. My Mother, despite her mental illness was there for me as I was growing up yet in her twilight years I was not there for her until the very end.
Would she have survived to see her 85th Birthday if I had not of turned my back on her for so many years? Only God knows the answer to that. What I know is that I let my hate of her illness blind me to the fact that she needed me.

My mother was struggling to deal with day to day problems that vex us all. These problems are easily solved by most but for her she needed someone to help her through them, she needed me; yet I was not there. Shirley was lonely, she needed family, her family did not need her. Her family was me and I did not realize until it was too late that I did need her.
My mother needed love and she looked for it in all the wrong places. One of those wrong places that she looked was in a “Looking For Love” classified in a tabloid. That ad took her to a loveless marriage in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I had to rescue her years later from unscrupulous Canadian Government Trustees that stole her money and left her lost and confused in a Canadian Senior Warehouse.

In the last two years of her life I was there for her, every single day except the last week of her life. My ex-wife Debbie was there for her also, being with her, when I couldn’t, as she breathed her last. We had moved my mother from a nursing facility in Independence, Kansas to a nursing facility in Abilene, Texas in anticipation of a move to that community. I was in Independence, Kansas closing our business and making arrangements for the move. Shirley contracted a Urinary Tract infection and died as I was en route to Abilene. I will always be grateful to Debbie that she was there in my Mothers final moments so that she did not have to die alone.
I was able to be there for my Mother in the last two years of her life but I should have been there all of her life as she tried to there all of my life.

Whoever may read this please take these lessons away from this writing:
1) Do not allow Doctors to put your elderly loved ones on Geodon, Haldol or Serequil. These drugs will kill them.
If currently on those drugs ween them off immediately.
Always remember, your parents were there for you, be there for them.
2) Put aside your grievance and/or your problems with those you love, those things are not important. What is important is that you love them and are there for them.
3) Forgiveness is not only important but it is also in required. If you love and believe in God then you believe in his word; “Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure — not to put it too severely — to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him … Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive.” -2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 10- The Good News: To forgive is an act of kindness that helps other people heal in God’s light as well. It is not enough to forgive you must also embrace.
4) Be there for your parents they need you more than they say and more than you know.

Would my mother be alive today to celebrate her 85th Birthday if I would have put aside my grievance and problems with her? Would I be taking her out to a Birthday Breakfast (her favorite meal), this morning rather than sitting here writing this if I had forgiven her instead of holding a grudge for so many years? I would like to think so. What I do know is this; I know I did right by my Mother in her final days. She was not alone and she was loved. I just wish I would have done right by her in all the days that proceeded those final days.

SHIRLEY ELIZABETH HUMMEL BORN SILVERLAKE, KANSAS JULY 26, 1935. DIED ABILENE, TEXAS MAY 16, 2010.

Happy Birthday Mom. I Love and Miss You Each and Every Day. -Your Jimmy-

GIANT YELLOW BLOWUP BUNNY

My Mother Shirley always tried her hardest, even when money was tight, to give me and my sister Pat a good Easter. Our Easter Baskets were always some type of Hat or Cap. I still remember the year of the Plastic Fedora. She would put a small amount of Easter Grass in the head wear, always green she did not like the pastel colored grass. There would be Peeps, Chocolate Bunnies, Brightly Colored Foil Wrapped Chocolate Eggs and lots and lots of Jelly Beans. Then the toys! I always got a model kit, some sort of flying toy; whirley gig, glider, kite or Frisbee. There would be smaller toys too. Plastic Toy Soldiers, Plastic Eggs filled with more Jelly Beans and Fuzzy Chicks and Bunnies.

My sister always got a Doll, A Game and some sort of outside toy; Ball, Jump Rope, Lawn Darts, etc. She would also get a lot of small toys similar to mine except instead of Toy Soldiers she would get small Plastic Animals or Dinosaurs.

My 11th Easter we were living in the roach infested duplex behind Saint Josephs Church in Topeka. This would be the first Easter away from my Grandmothers House. My Grandmother and Mother had an epic argument that had led to my Mothers eviction. Grandma had said us children could stay but Mom had to go. Mom was having none of that so here we were, on Easter, in a very different home from the wonderful and secure home us children had known all of our life. Mom was determined that Easter would go on as usual minus Church as the church we attended, First Church of the Nazarene, was also my Grandmothers Church home. The wounds were still fresh and Mom was still feeling very bitter.

Mom spent all night coloring hard boiled eggs and hiding them outside. Hiding them outside consisted of placing them in the Iris Bed between the side of the duplex and the alley and around a small brick patio behind the duplex. For all practical purposes the Duplex had no yard but Mom would not let that stop her. She managed to hide over a dozen eggs which me and my sister collected on Easter Morning while the sound of Easter Mass drifted on the clear and warm Spring morning.

After the eggs were collected we got our Easter Baskets (hats), and they consisted of the usual suspects (this was the year of the aforementioned Plastic Fedora). besides the Model, this year a 1956 Ford Truck, and a Kite there was something else. Mom had included in both my sister and my hats was a plastic giant blowup Rabbit. Now I am sure by now you are asking yourself; How did Shirley get all of that into a plastic Fedora? The answer is that my Mother was a Master Gift Wrapper and using an intricate series of Ribbon and Brightly Colored Tissue Paper she created a tower of Easter joy.

My Rabbit was yellow with a clear belly full of confetti and my sisters was purple with the same clear belly full of confetti. On the back of the bunny inside the belly was a joyous Easter Scene of the Easter Bunny with a basket full of Easter Eggs. In one hand the goofy looking giant yellow blowup bunny held an orange and green carrot. I was in that period between childhood and teenager; I felt I was too “Big” for this kind of toy yet I blew it up and took it outside. I sat on the curb by the alley turning it over and over, watching the confetti float inside. I sat the giant, yellow, blowup bunny by the purple blooming Iris’ and looked at it while I peeled an egg. I thought about how that would make a good Easter picture; maybe I would draw it later.

It was not long before my Mom came out and announced it was time for our annual Easter picnic. I took my Bunny inside and sat it on top of the dresser in my room. We left and stopped at KFC for fried chicken. My mother, me and my sister happily ate the Colonels secret blend of 11 herbs and spices at a coveted picnic table in Gage Park. After our repast my sister and I played upon the concrete animals in Animal Land. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Topeka Zoo which was crowded with other families celebrating Easter in a like manner. late in the afternoon we returned home.

I lay upon my small bed and stared at the blowup bunny on the dresser. I thought about Easters past. This one had been different because it wasn’t filled with Grandma’s cooking or the large family gatherings we usually had. We had not gone to church which seemed an odd thing to me. I did not totally understand the disagreement between my mother and my grandmother and it would be years before I did but to my eleven year old mind it seemed silly.

Soon I drifted off to sleep and within those final moments before the sandman visited I knew that my Mother had tried to give us the best Easter she could and she did.The giant yellow blowup Bunny sat upon that dresser until it eventually went to wherever giant yellow blowup bunnies go when their time has past. That Easter day of April 14, 1968 is long gone but my memory of it and its importance remains with me to this day.

HAPPY EASTER MOM!

-THE GYPSY- APRIL 12, 2020

The GYPSY’s Blog: Sharing A Moment In Time.

On October 25th I will celebrate 63 years on this big blue marble. This year also gave birth to another classic, besides myself, that is celebrating 80 years of being the most loved movie of all time. In honor of that movie and my upcoming birthday I would like to share this excerpt with you from my upcoming book: “Never Say Never: An Epic Journey – Volume One”. What you are about to read is a true story involving real people. This part of the story is of a journey that starts in July of 2013 and ends in August of 1939.

******

As I approached the Ghost Town of Bomarton, Texas the big road machines were busy on the east side of the road turning dirt into highway. Up ahead on my right I could see 3 Cotton Trucks waiting to turn onto the highway. Cotton is a major crop in that area of Texas and though Bomarton is a Ghost Town they still have a working Gin.

As I approached the intersection at 70 mph the first of the three trucks pulled out in front of me.As the big red truck lumbered into the highway I found myself left with a split second decision; Hit the shoulder, hit the truck or pass quickly due to an approaching hill. Hitting the shoulder was not an option as there was no shoulder, the road crews had seen to that. Hitting the truck was definitely out of the question as I did not want to mar his pretty red paint job with my pretty red blood. So that left option number three; pass quickly due to an approaching hill.

Opening up the throttle I accelerated and forced Black Betty, my 2001 Harley-Davidson Roadking into the oncoming lane. As we maneuvered around the slow moving giant I checked the lane ahead. At the top of the hill was an intersection and a silver car was approaching it quickly from the left road. Without slowing down or stopping the driver turned his silver death machine right and into the oncoming lane and straight towards me. I was at the point of no return and I opened the throttle all the way; 85, 90, 95 at 100mph the big V-Twin shot past the front of crimson killer and back into our north bound lane just in time to have the discourteous and oblivious driver of the four wheel casket zoom on by heading south and barely missing me. I saluted the driver of the cotton truck with my middle finger to assure him that he was number one in my book. I then said a silent prayer of thanks to God and the Angels he had sent to watch over me.

I stopped in Seymore, Texas at the Allsups Truck stop to top off my tank. I was 125 miles from home. My tank will take me, on the highway, 175 miles before it goes to reserve. The highway between Seymore and Wichita Falls is a long and lonely stretch with no services in between. It is a section of road that no one would ever want to find themselves broke down on for any reason as help would be a long time coming. And I had no desire to find myself without gas on that road on this particular day.

Seymore, Texas is a dying town even though it can lay claim as the county seat it is dying just the same. It is a victim of that all American village murderer; the by-pass. Like so many towns in Texas and elsewhere the powers that be have seen fit to take away the towns economy by moving the highway from the center of town to the outskirts with only one or two inconvenient exits for travelers to enter or leave.

******

I imagine Seymore, in it’s heyday, to be much the same as Silver Lake, Kansas must have been at the time of my Mothers birth on July 26, 1935. My Mother was born in a barn on a farm on the outskirts of Silver Lake near Highway 24. The barns loft was now an apartment. It was the middle of the depression and my Grandfather had lost everything due to a nasty divorce from his first wife and the stock market crash of 1929. My Grandfather was a Dentist with a practice in Dodge City, Kansas when my Grandmother became pregnant with the child that would one day be my Mother. There was already a son, Karl, and Pearl was hoping for a baby girl. A couple of years previous the Hummel’s had lost their oldest child, Priscilla (named after Oscars Mother), to the whopping cough. This baby was important because Pearl was a small woman and this might be her last child as she gave birth to large children and it was very hard on her.

That was not to say that she was weak or frail, she was not, Pearl was of pioneer stock. She was born in a sod house on the Clang homestead in the Texas Panhandle in 1904. Cowboys came from near and far to see the first “White” baby girl born in Canadia, Texas. Pearl Adaline Clang Married Oscar Lennox Hummel in 1926. Oscar called Topeka, Kansas home and was quite a bit older than her. My Grandmother once hinted that it was an arranged marriage that was financially beneficial to her parents. Be that as it may she loved him and bore Oscar his first child, Priscilla in 1930.

******

I finished fueling my Motorcycle and grabbed a couple of Chimichanga’s and a bottle of water from Allsups deli. If you are ever traveling through Texas or New Mexico stop at the Allsups and treat yourself to their Chimi’s, they are not to be missed. As I sat on my bike savoring the Chimi’s a stray dog wandered the truck stop parking lot looking for scraps on the ground. The dog, looking for a hand out approached an old man who was limping down the street. The old man shooed the hungry animal away with his cane and continued on his way.I watched the old man hobble away and thought about Oscar. He had a club foot yet was still able to serve his country during World War I in his capacity as a Dentist and it was while serving his country that he became incurably crippled with the disease that would one day take his life 40 years later.

******

As I left Seymore and maneuvered Black Betty back onto the highway I thought about my Grandfather. I thought about how Oscar had graduated from Dental School in Kansas City, Missouri. I thought about how badly he wanted to serve his country when America entered the war in Europe. I tried to imagine his elation when he discovered that he would be able to go over to Europe and help Soldiers with their dental problems using a relatively new invention called X-rays. I wondered how he must have felt when he found out those same X-Rays had poisoned him and that he would never be vital and vigorous again. I shook my head at his dubious honor of being the first Dentist to be recorded with Radiation poisoning.

******

As the miles rolled away I enjoyed the bright crispness of the day and I looked in anticipation to each milestone that would bring me one more mile closer to my goal. As the big bike rumbled under me I smiled remembering one of my Mothers favorite stories about her Father.

******

When my Mother was about 3 years old her Dad was outside the barn pulling weeds. The farm where she was born belonged to Oscars Dental partner and he and Pearl helped out as they could around the property in exchange for the Barn Loft Apartment, As he was hoeing out the weeds a fancy Packard Sedan pulled up outside the fence. A stranger in a tan 3 piece Sears and Roebuck suit stepped out of the car. The first thing Oscar noticed about this stranger was not the fancy car or the tan suit but the bright white spats he was wearing. What a fool, Oscar thought, them spats will be dirty in no time out here in Farm country.

As Oscar limped towards the fence to find out what was going on the stranger pulled out a camera, and started taking pictures. Oscar noticed that it was one of those new box cameras and he wondered how something that small and cheaply made could take any sort of descent photo.As Oscar approached the fence the stranger called out, “Sure is a hot one today.” Oscar allowed that it “Sure Was A Hot One” then asked the stranger, “Whatcha doing?” The stranger produced a card from his vest pocket and handed it to Oscar. The plain white business card read; Joseph Levin, MGM Location Scout, Hollywood, California. There was also a phone number on the card with an exchange that Oscar did not recognize.

“Well Mr. Levin…”

“Please call me Joe.”

“OK, Joe. What exactly are you scouting?”

“The studio is making a movie based on a popular novel and they want to build an authentic looking Farm set. So I am out taking photos of various Farms so that we can build a set with authenticity.”

Oscar scratched his head, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to come film on a Farm that is already built rather than building one to look like a Farm that is already here?”

“Sir… what’s your name?”

“Oscar.”

“Well Oscar, there are a lot of technical hurdles to over come and it is easier for us to recreate a farm and film in Hollywood rather than try to solve the technical problems on location.”

“Uh-Huh, well I just think it is a waste of time and money to build something that is already built.”

Joseph Levin waved off the statement and said, “Oscar, your Farm may well be the star of a movie someday.”

Oscar chuckled, “Well if this Farm becomes a movie star then I will have to buy that mule over there a pair of Sunglasses so it will look like all the other Hollywood Jack Asses.”

******

I laughed out loud with the wind carrying away the sound of my laughter. I always laughed when I thought about that part or when my Mother would relate the story; “Mule, Sunglasses, Hollywood Jack Asses.” I said out loud as another laugh escaped my mouth.

******

A little over a year later Oscar, Pearl, Karl and Shirley were sitting in the Jayhawk Theater in Topeka waiting for the movie to start. They were not movie going people and with money tight it was a luxury they could ill afford. But the children wanted to see this movie and after all it was based on a famous children’s story so they did not see the harm in splurging just this once. The News Reel played talking about the European war that Oscar prayed that the US would not get dragged into yet he knew it was inevitable. With that lunatic Hitler in charge in Germany and sending Jews and Gypsies to death camps Oscar knew it was only a matter of time. He worried about his own Gypsy Hummel family still in Eastern Europe and said a silent prayer for their safety.

The children laughed and clapped at the antics of Tom and Jerry on the screen and even the normally stern Oscar found himself smiling and letting out a small chuckle. Then it was time for the main feature. Pearl admonished the children to behave as the curtains parted and the powerful overture began to play. The movie was not even 5 minutes old when Oscar sat bolt upright in his chair, his jaw dropping open. He reached across the children and grabbed his wife’s shoulder. Pearl turned and looked at Oscar and mouthed the words; “I know, I see.” At this point little Shirley cried out with glee, “Mommy, Daddy, our farm!” Oscar placed his head in his hand and mumbled, “I sure hope that damn Mule don’t want a set of white spats to go with his sunglasses.”

As Oscar, Pearl, Karl and Shirley watched the Tornado rip the small house from it’s foundation on the movie screen Pearl said a silent prayer thankful that the movie was just a fantasy and gave thanks that she had never really been in a Tornado. Her Mother had been deathly afraid of the deadly Twisters so her Father had sold their homestead in the panhandle of Texas and moved to Kansas. Looking back on it now she could see that his logic had been pretty silly.

******

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time. I honestly have never felt like it was because of my off handed connection to it. I have just always liked it’s message of faith, love, hope and it’s promise of home as well as the music; ah, the music and as I rode the miles away the tunes drifted through my head as the wind carried me home to Kansas.

-J.A George AKA; The GYPSY-www.RubberBiskit.comCopyright 2019 – All Rights Reserved

Gypsy’s Blog: A Lament For Home

A LAMENT FOR HOME
There are times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is. Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas I knew where my home was until I was fifteen and then that summer of 1972 I was relocated, against my will, to Saint Joseph, Missouri and I have had no home since then.

From the smell of the Saint Joe stockyards to the glorious fall colors of the Weston, Missouri Bluffs I have been from one extreme to another. From the crystal clear mornings of Nemo, South Dakota to the struggle of living out of the back of a car in Cameron, Missouri I have seen full days and hungry days. From running away from the horror of the streets of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the hope of a better life in Abilene, Texas I have seen Hell and Heaven. From the indifference of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to the Comforting embrace of El Paso, Texas I have seen Hate and Love. From the Crack Whores of San Angelo, Texas to the dust blown hopeless streets of Midland, Texas I have known the living dead and their haunts. From the small minds of Baxter Springs, Kansas to the driven souls of Independence, Kansas I have known ignorance and inspiration. All those places, all those lessons, all that time wasted and back to a place I once considered home yet my grip on that concept is not what it once was.

When I returned to Topeka after a 43 year absence I was energized, excited and ready to re-establish myself within my home. Yet what I returned to was not the Topeka of my youth. It was a place filled with crime encouraged by corrupted institutions that would have once fought against the onslaught but now have grown lazy. If it don’t affect me then why should I be concerned? Has become the mantra heard all to often.

Community organizations have been infiltrated by those who think that to help means to climb the social ladder. Oh yes I am a volunteer would you like to see my portfolio? They have forgotten that it is about something greater than them.A city that was once beautiful has allowed itself to be taken down a sewer pipe by individuals that destroy that which was once viable and now lies in ruins. Absentee landlords are not held accountable and buildings that once housed commercial business sit stark and silent collapsing in upon themselves.The state in it’s infinite wisdom opened the doors of the asylum and set the patients lose upon the street then closed the doors behind them so that they could no longer have a safe haven. The homeless and wanton wander the streets encourage by those who claim they help. The helpers line their deep pockets with the dollars spewed forth by well meaning people who feed not with food but with enablement as the lazy give birth to cardboard signs on city street corners.

I see glimmers of hope by those within the Topeka Community who have witnessed what I have and do not turn a blind eye to it. There are those that struggle and fight against the Avant-Garde invasion into their efforts. They fight to find ways to end the corruption, the blight, the despair and the collapse of the city they love, These are the warriors that go into battle with a pin knife and a candle to show the way. They pray that more people like themselves will bring their candles and pin knifes into the fray so that they may create a mighty fire and many sharp teeth to rip to shreds the apathy, corruption and divide that destroys the community.

I look at Topeka’s History and my heart aches for the loss of what once was. I look at the communities future and it is gray and uncertain. I know that the community must reinvent itself if it is to survive. I know that the community is striving to rebirth itself yet I worry. I worry that unless the dark elements that have crawled into the community are not dealt with first that instead of rebirth Topeka will suffer a miscarriage of the fetus of progress.There are times I want to join the fight and charge forward. Then there are the times, like today, that seem like a waste of my time. I fight to stay strong but I see ignorance, sloth, avarice and apathy. My stomach turns and I ask myself; Why do I even try? Yet the next morning I awaken and go forth to add my candle and pin knife to the fight, the fight where I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Frustration fills my soul and sadness grips my heart. Where is my Topeka? Where is my home?

Are you still with me? Have you traveled on my journey this day? Do you feel what I feel? Do you want to move ahead and not fall back into the abyss? Are you thinking I may have the answer? The truth is I do not; I wish I did.

I reach down deep inside and my Gypsy blood calls out to me; Release material possessions, put it all behind you and head off to the next spot in the road over the next hill and at the end of the horizon. It is tempting however I will stay, for now, because deep down inside I love Topeka and I Love my state of Kansas; it’s people, it’s places, it’s history, it’s today and it’s tomorrow. I will stay not out of a sense of duty or obligation but because I know that if everyone ran when frustration fills our souls then we would never step into the better future that it takes each and everyone of us to create. For today I will call Topeka, Kansas home and try to ignore the times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is.

-The GYPSY-

www.RubberBiskit.com

Copyright 2019

Oasis On 66 By J.A. George

Gypsy’s Blog: Ode To A Chair

“Good afternoon Skin Art Creations how may I help you?” I said into the phone. 

“Hey Gypsy it’s Linden.”

“Hey Linden what’s up?” 

Linden was a good friend of mine and part of the biker community that I tattooed on. I hadn’t talked to him for a while so the phone call was a pleasant surprise. My first thought was I bet it’s time for another tattoo. But this call would turn out to be something that would affect the rest of my life.

“Hey Gypsy I’m down here in Tulsa and we’re getting ready to remodel this Dentist garage. He told us to take everything out of the garage and throw it away into the dumpster. One of the things he told us to throw away is an old Dental chair and I thought about you immediately. Do you think you would want it?” 

At that time, 2001, cell phones we’re at a stage where you could take photos however the photos were usually one megapixel and not really that clear. 

“Can you take a photo of it and send it to me?” 

Linden said, “Sure but my flip phone doesn’t take that great of a photo but I’ll see what I can do.”

A few minutes later I received notification that I had a message and I looked down at my phone. On the screen was a fuzzy picture of an old blue and black Dental chair. I called Linden back. “Do you know if it works?” 

“Not sure,” Linden answered, “it’s electric and hydraulic.” 

“You know what I’ll take a chance on it how much do you want for it?” 

Now I was thinking, knowing how much Linden liked tattoos, that I can make a trade however what Linden said next was better than a tattoo trade. 

“I don’t want anything for it but you have to pick it up today otherwise it’s going in the dumpster; that’s what my boss said.”

Crap I knew I would be unable to pick it up that day as I had a full schedule in my studio. I told Linden I would call him back in just a couple minutes and see what I could do. There was only one person I could think of that might possibly have the time to drive down to Tulsa and get the chair. I called the Reverend biker Mike.

Biker Mike was my best friend in the entire world and he and I would do anything we could for each other, that is anything that was humanly possible to do. I phoned him. 

“Hey Mike are you busy?” 

“No man not really what’s up?” His gruff voice came through the phone.

I chuckled. Biker Mike, The Reverend Biker Mike, was a Motorcycle Minister and a simple, “No man not really what’s up?” sounded like it was delivered from a pulpit.

I explained to him what was “up” and asked him for his help. A few minutes later Biker Mike had all the details and was on his way to Tulsa in his little Mazda Pick-Up Truck to get the chair for me. 

At that time I had a full time Tattoo Studio in Independence, Kansas and a part time Piercing Studio in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I already had two Dental Chairs in the Independence studio so I had instructed Biker Mike to take the chair from Tulsa to the Bartlesville Studio. 

“Go into the alley and back-up to the loading dock at the back of the building. By the time you get there I should be finished and I will head down. We can both unload it into the building.” I admonished Biker Mike with a warning. “Linden says it is very heavy so do not try and move it yourself, let me help. When we get done I’ll buy pizza and Coke’s.”

I was excited as I drove down to Bartlesville 45 miles away. If the chair worked it would be a great addition to my body piercing business.

As I drove up the street towards my studio I looked up the alley where Biker Mike’s truck with the chair in the back should be and I slammed on the brakes! I could see the truck and I could see the chair wedged in between the tailgate of the truck and the loading dock. I could also see what looked like Biker Mike’s body trapped beneath the chair. I whipped into the alley and coming to a stop I jumped out of my truck and ran over to where Biker Mike lay.

Biker Mike’s wife Terry was there frantic and beside herself. I did not like or trust Terry and now only reinforced my opinion of what an idiot I felt she was.

“Mike tried to unload the chair and it fell on him, it fell on him.”

I knelt down to check on Biker Mike and the situation.

“Did you call 911 I asked?”

“No. Why? Should I?”

I ignored her question as I assessed the situation. The chair had fallen backwards and had lodged itself between the tailgate of the truck and the loading dock which was a full 18” higher than the tailgate of the truck. Biker Mike had tumbled to the ground, possibly while trying to stop the chair from falling. Not a small man Biker Mike was now lodged between the bed of the truck and the building. He was knocked out, a good size goose egg on his forehead. His signature denim Big Smith overalls were trapped by the shoulder strap by one of the handles of the chair giving him a limp hanged appearance.

“Call 911!” I snapped at Terry. “Tell them we have an unconscious trapped male in his 40’s lying beneath a heavy object.” I looked over at her slack jawed, deer in the headlights look. “Now!” I yelled.

As she called I took my knife out of my pocket and cut the shoulder strap of the overalls which let Biker Mike collapse closer to the ground and as he did I grabbed the overalls and yanked his 250 some odd pound body from behind the truck and out from under the chair. Emergency vehicles arrived and as the Paramedics tended to Biker Mike a couple of Firemen helped me wrestle the chair onto the loading dock and into the building.

“This is a 500 Pound Monster.” One of the Fireman said, and though the chair only weighs 350 pounds anytime it has ever had to be moved I have referred to it as “The 500 Pound Monster.”

Bartlesville’s finest suggested that the now conscious Biker Mike go to the hospital but he refused. They advised him not to drive for a while and I assured them he wouldn’t. As the emergency crew dispersed I turned my attention back to Biker Mike.

“What the Hell were you thinking?” I yelled at Biker Mike, “You could of been killed!”

He looked up at me sheepishly, the knot on his head throbbing an ugly red, his left eye starting to blacken.

“I was in a hurry for that pizza you promised me.”

I looked at him dumbfounded then I burst out laughing. “Let’s go get your pizza Brother.”

******

The next day I cleaned up the chair, filled it with hydraulic fluid and plugged it in; it worked. That chair became my favorite tool. Over the next 16 years, like a trusted friend, the chair never failed me. Sometimes the chair would reside in one of my studios and sometimes it would become the working chair in my mobile tattoo facility. From Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Independence, Kansas to Sturgis, South Dakota to Laconia, New Hampshire to Council Bluffs, Iowa to Eula, Texas to Topeka, Kansas that chair saw a lot of miles, a lot of Tattoos and a lot of Piercings. That chair has also seen a lot of history.

Manufactured on April 3, 1945, 35 Days before the end of World War II, this Ritter Dental Chair was state of the art when it was made. I wish I knew what it’s journey was before it was almost dumpster fodder in Tulsa, Oklahoma but it really does not matter, the chair had proven to be a survivor.

Then in 2016 it happened. After 40 years in the Body Art Business I decided to retire. I let my ex-wife talk me into selling the 1945 Ritter Chair and  a 1937 Ritter Chair and Dental Island I owned to the owner of the building where I leased my studio space. I did not want to sell my 1945 Ritter but my ex badgered me about it and how we could use the money until I finally gave in. I was sad to lose the chair but I sucked it up and moved on.

I came out of retirement as fast as I had gone into it and leased a space from another tattoo studio in Topeka. I leased the space for 3 years. But with each passing day I realized that I needed my own studio. Working out of someone else’s place was not what an Artist that had his own studio for 40 years needed to be doing. As I started taking inventory of my equipment and prepared to open my new studio under a new name, Artist Alley Studio & Gallery, I started missing “The 500 Pound Monster”.

I contacted the man who had purchased it and the 1937 Ritter in 2016 and asked him if he still had either one of the chairs.

“Well Gypsy I have both of them but I don’t want to get rid of the green one.”

“That’s great!” I exclaimed, hoping he couldn’t hear the excitement in my voice. “I want the blue one!”

“I’ll take $150 for it.” he said.

“Sold!” I said.

This morning I pulled my trailer up to the front of the downtown Topeka store where the chair was stored. As I unloaded my dollie the owner said, “You came by yourself to get it? You know I can’t help you as I have a bad heart.” 

I Laughed, “That’s OK, I have moved this 500 Pound Monster by myself more times than I can count.”

******

The chair is now sitting in its new home, my new studio which was once a dental office. Seems sort of appropriate, old building (built in 1900), in the NOTO Arts District that was once a Dental Office and now an Art Gallery containing a chair that was once a dental chair and now an art chair.

My ex-wife talked me into getting rid of many things that were special to me. Among them  my 1970 BSA Thunderbolt Motorcycle that I threw two newspaper routes to save the money to buy when I was 15 years old. My 2001 Road King Classic Motorcycle. My 1966 Ford F250 Twin I-Beam Pick-Up Truck. My Record Collection. My Independence, Kansas Tattoo Studio. Yes, I allowed myself to be brow beaten into submission and I have forever lost those things that meant so much to me and the history of my life. I will never again have those things in my life; I may have duplicates but they will not be those things. Yet once in a while when you have lost something near and dear to you it comes back home once more. It is then that you know that you will never turn loose of that item again.

Welcome home My 500 Pound Monster, welcome home!

-The GYPSY-

31 August 2019

www.RubberBiskit.com

Gypsy’s Blog: Piqua, Kansas

Piqua, Kansas Photos By: The GYPSY

Sitting approximately halfway between Yates Center, Kansas to the west and Iola, Kansas to the east is the Kansas Ghost Town of Piqua.
The small quiet Woodson County Community has it’s claim to fame as being the birthplace of American Film actor and comedian Joseph “Buster” Keaton. Known as the “Great Stone Face” Buster Keaton’s mother Myra and father Joseph (Buster was the sixth in the family line to bear the name Joseph), were Vaudeville performers appearing at the local theater in Piqua when Myra went into labor. Buster through his career remained as humble as the town into which he was born. Yet Buster Keaton was not Piqua’s only notable native son.
Fred Leo Kipp (born October 1, 1931, at Piqua, Kansas) played professional baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. He is the last living player to play for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees and has written a book about his life that is titled The Last Yankee Dodger. He currently lives in Overland Park, Kansas and runs a small construction company and promotes his book through radio interviews and book readings.
As I walked the streets of Piqua I was struck that though it is a dying community there is still an air of old time small town pride and tranquility. 
Flecks of Blue Paint cling desperately to forgotten playground equipment and structures in the town park which waits for the last blue chip to fall. While the abandoned baseball field plays silent witness to the coming conclusion.
I sat on the blue paint flecked bleachers of the abandoned Baseball field where Piqua’s finest young men, including Fred Kipp once played America’s past time. I could see the spirits of those long ago players playing those long ago forgotten games. I could smell the hotdog’s, roasted peanuts, cigarettes and the occasional whiff of whiskey from shared bottles as the the citizen’s of Piqua cheered on their local team against whatever other local team dared to challenge them. Those cheers lay as a silent echo in the baselines of the no longer used field. 
Piqua sits on a Ley Line which passes through the abandoned ball field Maybe that energy is what keeps Piqua still breathing today. Or maybe it is the spirit of those who still call Piqua home. They know that it does not matter who was born there or where the town is heading into the future they just know that for today life is good in Piqua. The people of Piqua are happy and proud to be a member of this Kansas community.

-The GYPSY-
www.RubberBiskit.com

The GYPSY’s Blog: K Building

Formidable the K Building stands defiant one of the last remaining reminders and survivors of the former Topeka Kansas State Hospital.
The K Building had always held a certain fascination with me as my Mother had been a patient housed within it’s confines in 1954.
Shirley Elizabeth Hummel had suffered a psychotic break (called nervous breakdown at the time), when she had discovered that her new Army husband had a wife in England. She had been admitted in an almost catatonic state and spent the next year in recovery.
I had drove by the gloomy, now empty and lifeless building numerous times always staring at it and wondering what lay within it’s hidden hallways.
Then one cold mid autumn day I discovered that I had an opportunity to find out what secrets the K Building still held. I was driving school bus at the time and my route included Capital City High School. “Cap City” is a school for at risk children and K Building had at one time in the 1970’s and 1980’s been used as the “Cap City” High School. It was November 9, 2014 and I had some time to kill before I would pick up the students from the Menniger Building (another remnant of the former hospital and then the high school) for their ride home. So I grabbed my camera and walked across the sleeping grass of the long broad lawn that serves as the welcome mat of the dark brick structure.
I started walking around the building taking photos, my imagination ran wild wondering what the inside looked like; what windows did my mother look out of in the sadness of her ruined psyche. Did she long to be set free or did she feel safe shut off from the world within the confines of this sanctuary of the disturbed?
I moved around to the front of the K Building and climbed the concrete stairs to take photos of the large porch where patients once sat smoking their camel cigarettes and trying to make sense of their jumbled world. As I snapped my photos I suddenly heard a creaking sound and turned around to see the entry door of the building swinging slowly open. It wavered and swung slowly back in forth in the slight breeze as if beckoning me to enter. “Come in Gypsy, come in. See what you wonder about, come in. Have your questions answered, come in. Be my guest and know, come in.’ I walked in through the heavy wooden door.
The light of the late afternoon entered the entry hall with me and illuminated the reception desk. My mother was admitted into this structure at this desk. She was just one of a long line of patients admitted into this building. But more special to me than them, she would one day be my mother.
I walked through dark and empty halls of peeling paint and cobwebs. Dust sat heavy on window seals daring you to brush it off and onto the floors that no longer held a high gloss shine.
Windows that were not boarded up fought back the outside light through glass panes frosted from age not desire. Heavy doors hung on heavy hinges within the heavy air of the building. The building seemed to envelope you holding you in and holding in it’s secrets.
I walked down the long hallways dark and foreboding like the catacombs of Paris yet the catacombs of Paris would fight to be as dismal as the K Building was and is. I wandered up stairs majestic and stolid. The craftsmanship of the building was not lost within it’s loss and decay. I explored the second floor which somehow seemed lighter and more airy than the first floor. I then ventured to the narrow stairway that moved higher into the building, to the top floor.
I new, when I entered the top floor that I had found where this buildings darkest secrets lay, they were here. I was standing in the reception area of the clinic and therapy rooms. Damaged and troubled minds and souls had poured out their torment within these rooms. The echos of their pain still permeated the air in these decaying corridors.
Which therapy room had my Mother sat in with her Doctor pouring out her soul and wailing out the torment of the betrayal she had to endure. I would never know but I could still feel her pain and the pain of those who came before and after her hanging in the air.
I moved back down the stairs and decided to explore the first floor one last time before leaving the building. I still wondered what room my mother had been housed in and resigned myself to the fact that I would never truly know. As I moved down the hallways I stared at the doors that still carried the plates where the patients in that room had their names displayed. The plates sat as empty as the rooms waiting for new patients with forgettable names and faces to occupy them once more.
I turned and headed back towards whence I had come, it was time to leave and head over to “Cap City” and pick up my students and that is when I saw it. On an old wooden door protecting an old empty room was a number; 103. Memories flooded back from my childhood and from those memories I knew I had found the room my mother had occupied during her stay in the K Building. I stepped into the room and looked around. It was empty except for an old bench beneath an even older window. Dust mites flew up from the floor and danced within the stagnant air. I moved over to one of the windows and looked out knowing my mother had looked out this same window and I smiled, remembering one of my mothers favorite sayings; “If I had one hundred and three dollars for every time that happened….” I had found my mother in this dying, dreaded monument of a long ago era that few had escaped. My mother had escaped but as evidenced she had forever carried the memory of her time within this place with her. She carried the memory and now I would too.
As I left K Building and walked off the porch I stopped and looked down a stairwell at the heavy steel door that guarded the basement access to the building. I turned and walked away from K Building knowing that it’s basement would be an exploration that may or may not happen on another day.

The GYPSY-

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